Fear is a warning signal and a way for you to protect yourself. It’s a completely normal and human reaction. We all get afraid for various reasons. Fear is a powerful feeling, but it’s only when you let it take over that it can become a problem, both in your career and at home.
Fear can block you from moving forward. It holds you back from reaching your true potential by limiting what you do and stopping you from using your already existing skills.
How fear tried to invade my life and how I overcame it
As a career coach, people might think that I don’t get afraid. But like you, I’ve had to tackle many fears.
When I started my coaching business, it was an unusual career choice at the time. I had to tackle my fear of being judged by my family. In developing my business, my perfectionism came out, and I spent a long time obsessing over my website and logo. I could finally move on when I realised I could change the website later and that it would evolve with me.
I also had to face some fears in my private life. As a family, we had to decide whether to move countries several times. Moving to Morocco with our teenage daughter was one of the more significant decisions we had to make. We did but ended up implementing our plan B after a year. It didn’t work out as we initially wanted it to.
Fear always came up, but I used the techniques described in this article to manage my anxieties. It’s not all about removing fear. It’s about having systems to handle the often justified warning signals fear gives you.
What annoying fear is holding you back in your life and career?
The first step to dealing with fear is to be aware of it. Here’s a list of common fears and how to take the first steps towards taking control of them. What fear is holding you back?
1. Fear of change
Most people don’t like change. This is entirely normal. It can shake up our habits and take us out of our comfort zone. Stepping outside what we know can lead to the unknown, which can be scary! Change can also feel stressful. So it’s no wonder some people prefer to avoid change at any cost.
But we can’t avoid change. It’s part of life. Resisting change can cause us more harm. It stops us from taking action and from growing and developing as a person. Without change, you risk developing an inflexible and narrow mindset. And when change inevitably arrives, it can feel more damaging and difficult to deal with.
How to deal with the fear of change
Instead of waiting until you’re in an unsatisfactory situation or until others will do something for you, be proactive and anticipate change.
For example, many people wait to change careers or jobs until they feel stuck and unhappy. To avoid this, ask yourself:
- What do you want your next career step to be?
- What is your next goal?
- How do you want to grow?
Then put together an action plan and follow it.
2. Fear of the unknown
The fear of the unknown is linked to the fear of change. The unfamiliar brings a feeling of insecurity. You don’t know what to expect, so your imagination kicks in. This can be both positive and negative.
Unfortunately, our brains are wired to look at the negative, and we often imagine the worst-case scenario. This interpretation and anticipation of a catastrophe can cause us to feel paralysed. Instead of facing the unknown, we bury our heads in the sand.
The reality, in most cases, doesn’t end up being as bad as you have imagined.
How to deal with the fear of the unknown
There are a couple of ways to deal with the unknown.
- Do your research. Gathering information can help relieve the feeling of insecurity.
- When you’ve done your research, there might still be an element of uncertainty left. You can now choose to let your fear rule you and avoid the unknown. Or you can welcome it, live alongside it and live a fearless life.
3. Fear of taking risks
Taking risks is part of life and a gamble you must take to succeed. If you’re afraid of taking risks, it can prevent you from trying something new and limit your life. So if you want to move forward in life, you will eventually have to take a risk. This is also how you build your confidence. Without taking risks, there are no rewards. If you take a chance and it doesn’t work out, you will still gain from it by learning something new.
How to deal with the fear of taking risks
Taking risks is not about jumping into something without thinking about it. It’s about gathering available information and taking a calculated risk. This is a way of minimising the risk and going for it. If it doesn’t work out, you’ve learnt something new. It’s essential that you don’t think about it as a failure.
You can also ask yourself: Will I regret not taking the risk?
4. Fear of failure
Fear of failure can make you procrastinate and prevent you from following your career aspirations. It can, for instance, stop you from a career change in your mid 40-s.
How you approach failure is all about your mindset. To make mistakes is human. Everyone does them. If something doesn’t work out, you can choose to beat yourself up about it. Or you can go back and try a different approach and see it as a learning experience.
How to deal with the fear of failure
To manage your fear of failure, ask yourself:
- What is the worst-case scenario if I fail?
- How realistic is this scenario?
- What can I do to mitigate the chance of failure?
- What can my plans B and C be?
5. Fear of not being perfect or not good enough
Perfectionism, if handled well, can help you in your career. But if it’s not managed correctly, it can make you afraid of making a decision, taking action or completing a project. Like other fears, fear of imperfection can block you from moving forward. It drags you down because you don’t get the confidence boost you get from trying.
You lose sight of the bigger picture. Perhaps you’re afraid to apply for a new job because you don’t fulfil ALL the requirements. Maybe you end up in analysis paralysis: you gather plenty of information but can’t make a decision. Sometimes there isn’t an ideal solution, and you have to take a calculated risk.
How to deal with the fear of not being perfect or good enough
The first thing to do with the fear of not being perfect or good enough is to recognise it when it comes up. Then ask yourself:
- Is this a situation I should ask for help?
- Can I delegate this item?
- What is the bigger picture?
- What will I gain if I work on this for longer?
6. Fear of being successful
In some families, success can be seen as selfish, superficial, materialistic or snobby. This can develop into a fear of being successful.
You may think successful people behave a certain way and don’t want to be like that. You might be afraid that you will grow apart from the people you love. Perhaps you think you will always have to be successful once you’re successful, and that feels exhausting.
How to deal with the fear of being successful
Dealing with the fear of being successful is all about changing your mindset about success.
- Where does your fear of success come from?
- What would happen if you were successful?
- What would happen if you were not always successful?
Remember, there is nothing wrong with being successful!
7. Fear of being judged
The fear of being judged can stop you from taking action because you fear being criticised. It might prevent you from saying something at a meeting or presenting an idea completely different from what everyone else has suggested. It can also make you fall into the pleaser trap and unable to say no to requests.
When you fear being judged, you don’t see your value as equal to other people.
How to deal with the fear of being judged
When dealing with the fear of being judged, you must understand that you are valuable. Your value might be different from other people’s, but you still bring value to the company and the people around you.
If you receive criticism, ask yourself:
- Is this a justified criticism?
- Is your critic afraid of receiving the same complaint he or she is giving out?
- Is the criticism about a something that gives you an advantage? And would your critic benefit from this strength him- or herself?
Take a step back from the criticism and try to look at it with some perspective.
8. Fear of rejection
No one wants to be rejected because it’s not a pleasant feeling. If you fear rejection and try to avoid it, it can, for example, stop you from applying for a new job and harm your career.
It’s also linked to the fear of being judged and not being good enough. So if you’re a perfectionist, a rejection would be proof of your imperfection. If you are criticised, you can interpret that as a rejection. No wonder such thoughts create a fear of rejection!
How to deal with the fear of rejection
The main thing to remember about rejection is not to take things personally. If you fail at something, disappoint someone, or if you are criticised, it doesn’t mean YOU are rejected by that person.
It’s your actions, behaviour or qualifications, NOT YOU as a person, that are disappointing or criticised. So you need to separate your identity from your actions. Take a step back and look at it with some perspective.
9. Fear of making the wrong decision
Making a big decision often comes with a lot of pressure, and you might be afraid of making the wrong choice. To reduce this pressure, some people procrastinate in making decisions. This can lead to more stress, or the decision is made for you.
If the decision is made for you, it might feel like a relief. But this isn’t always to your advantage. This way, you give away your power and control to others and can end up unsatisfied.
Perhaps you’ve been offered a promotion which involves lots of travel. You don’t know how it would affect your family and if you would enjoy the new role.
How to deal with the fear of making the wrong decision
To help you make a decision, use the SWOT system. SWOT stand for:
Analyse your problem with the above points in mind. Remember to consider how important each point is. Sometimes the negatives weigh heavier than the positives
If it’s a significant decision, have a plan B and plan C to fall back on.
You might find that all of these fears on the list come up for you in different situations. Or you might have one or two persistent fears that don’t go away.
Awareness and putting measures in place is the first step to tackling your fears. As a career coach, I can help you conquer your fears quicker and help you achieve your goals to advance your career.
Do you want help to overcome your fear and live your best life?